Sunday, January 17, 2010

Australian Open 2009: Predictions for Day 1

Tennis Tidings

It’s Grand Slam season again. The Australian Open, Grand Slam tournament of the Asia Pacific kicks off proceeding with action including Clijsters, Henin, Sharapova, Nadal, Roddick, Murray, Cilic and Del Potro. Federer will headline play on Tuesday, but for now, these are my predictions for Monday, Day 1.

The Rod Laver Arena this year is getting its first hit from 2008 Ladies’ Champion Maria Sharapova. Back after a long injury break, Sharapova has not lost a match here since lifting the trophy. It’s interesting to note that Clijsters hadn’t lost a match at the US Open before her comeback, and she’s defending champion now, so Sharapova would be hoping for the same kind of fortitude as she heads into the tournament. She faces Maria Kirilenko in Round 1. Having played her three times before, Sharapova’s emerged victorious twice, retiring whilst trailing 1-2 in the second set of the semi finals in Beijing in 2005. The two haven’t met since 2006 and Kirilenko has plummeted to 58 in the world rankings. And yet, all the matches between these two have been hard fought, and so, I think, will this one.
Prediction: Sharapova victor in two tough sets; one of them going to the tie break.
Other matches on Rod Laver Arena:
Easy wins for Clijsters, Nadal, Murray and a tough fought three set win for home favourite underdog Jelena Dokic.
Other ladies’ matches to watch out for:
Justine Henin on her comeback trail should wipe the court of Hisense Arena with her compatriot Kristen Flipkens.

Anna Chakvedatse should upset number 12 seed Flavia Pennetta is she were to play with any of the class that had her in the top 5 of women’s tennis. Not likely though given her recent showing.

COURT 6 – 1100
Stepanek is on great form, ending runner up to Roddick at the Brisbane International. The big serving Croat Karlovic is a danger to anyone receiving who isn’t named Federer. Stepanek has not yet lost a match to Karlovic, and probably won’t if he plays anywhere near his best, but you can expect this to be a long match, with plenty of easy service holds, especially for Karlovic. The two had an incredible Davis Cup match last year, going to 16-14 in the final set, all the others having been decided on tie-breaks. Stepanek can run down almost anything, and is a veteran of the long drawn match whilst Karlovic has, well, probably ace number 40 for the match, all set up.
Prediction: Very tough to call, despite Stepanek’s class on paper. I’m picking Stepanek for the win, in 4 sets, with three going to the wire.
Other men’s matches to watch out for:
Marin Cilic playing veteran Fabrice Santoro who is “not playing a comeback” match. Expect Cilic to win easily, on the back of his Chennai defense.
Not much excitement on the first day of the men’s event, with probably easy wins for Roddick, Del Potro and Monfils.
There should be plenty of excitement for the local crowd to watch Bernard Tomic play. Last year he was the youngest man to make the second round. He shouldn’t do much better this time, but you can bet he’ll command a crowd nonetheless when he takes Margaret Court Arena after the Wickameyer match.
The only possible upset could be James Blake. Playing former runner up Arnaud Clement, Blake could fall, but likely will prevail as well.

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